Outreach & EducationMusic, Scenery & Costumes

Music may be written especially for a ballet. But original music is expensive, and only a few large ballet companies can occasionally afford it. A choreographer usually selects music that has already been written, such as a symphony or a concerto. The music may even have given the choreographer the idea for the ballet. Most ballets are composed to music that is no longer protected by copyright. Therefore, no payment is required to use it. Existing music. When choreographers select music that has already been written, they think first about what appeals to them. There is no rule for selecting the music. Most people would agree that the lovely, melodic music of Franz Schubert is danceable. They might also agree that the harsh, jagged sounds and rhythms of Arnold Schoenberg's music are not danceable. But choreographer Antony Tudor composed one of his greatest ballets, Pillar of Fire (1942), to the music of a work by Schoenberg.

After selecting the music, choreographers listen to it until they feel they understand its mood and structure. Then they begin work on the choreography of the ballet with the dancers and a pianist or a recording of the music.

Many people believe that the most musical choreographers are those who make the ballet movements follow the music's rhythms exactly. But any beginner can do that--and such a ballet would be dull. Skilled choreographers want their ballets to express more than the music expresses. Instead of following the beats of the rhythm, they arrange dance steps that go with the longer phrases of music. To create special effects or dramatic effects, choreographers may make the steps go against the music.